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I.B.M. sets a world record in solar P.V. energy efficiency

I.B.M. achieved a milestone in photovoltaic energy conversion using “earth-abundant materials,” for a record-breaking 11.1 percent efficiency.

I.B.M.’s Material Sciences team, along with industry partners Solar Frontier, Tokyo Ohka Kogyo and DelSolar, successfully tested a solar cell made of copper, zinc and tin (Cu2ZnSn(S,Se)4). The cell, referred to as CZTS, is capable of producing more energy compared to similar existing P.V. technologies.

The new technology could answer the challenges currently facing thin-film solar P.V.’s as they attempt to break through the solar market.

Unlike traditional thin films, such as CIGS(cooper, indium, gallium, selenium) or CdTe (cadmium telluride) which incorporate expensive and rare materials, CZTS materials are inexpensive and much easier to obtain.

It is also easy to produce, using simple ink-based techniques such as printing or casting, compared to crystalline silicon based P.V. technologies. “Of the numerous existing P.V. technologies, none so far have combined the virtues of being highly efficient, cheaply scalable and made with abundantly available materials,” said I.B.M.

Currently, the I.B.M. research team is continuing its efforts to improve CZTS with a target of 15 percent efficiency, which will make it a viable alternative to CIGS. Over the next two years, they expect to reach hit this target.

“Our CZTS PV cells could potentially yield up to 500 gigawatts per year – getting closer to the Terawatt levels of renewable electricity the planet needs,” said Teodor Todorov and David Mitzi, I.B.M. Research photovoltaic scientists. – EcoSeed Staff

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